Politics

Break Time Is Over

In Montreal, the Charbonneau Commission on corruption in Quebec’s construction industry resumes after a holiday hiatus

CBC NewsBernard Trépanier denies his nickname, “Mr. Three Percent.”

In the wake of a recent news story that corruption in Montreal has cost taxpayers as much as $500 million dollars, the Charbonneau Commission resumed today after a two-week Easter break. Up first: Bernard Trépanier, otherwise known as Bernie to the Max and Mr. Three Percent, a former municipal party fundraiser who has been mentioned in testimony time and again. Trépanier, who allegedly had a habit of skimming 3 percent off the top of infrastructure contracts, is an old style, almost avuncular politico who has been well-coached by defense lawyers. He continues the testimony—filled with memory lapses, denials, and contradictions—that he began before the holiday.

Once Trépanier is finished, Frank Zampino and Gérald Tremblay have both been subpoenaed to appear in the hot seat before commission head France Charbonneau. Zampino, the former second in command at Montreal’s city hall, is not expected to say much, given that he faces criminal charges in connection with a land deal in the city’s east end.

Tremblay, the former Montreal mayor who resigned last year, is another story altogether. His departure came amid questions of what he knew and when he knew it, and at least one colourful image of a party safe so stuffed with cash that it would not close. Since then, Tremblay, who was a provincial Liberal industry and commerce minister before entering municipal politics, has clamoured for a chance to publicly tell his side of the story. Of course, if he really didn’t know anything, as he has steadfastly maintained, that in
itself is a bit of a problem. He was the guy in charge, after all.

Lisa Fitterman is a National Newspaper Award winner and the author of two children’s books.